Making prog-ress . . . Steve Hackett comes to Ipswich
PUBLISHED: 11:45 07 October 2014 | UPDATED: 11:45 07 October 2014
Steve Hackett is one of the leading guitarists from the golden age of prog-rock. One of the founder members of Genesis, he is bringing his new show to Suffolk this month which he hopes will breathe new life into those early classics. Andrew Clarke caught up with him in a reflective mood
By his own admission guitarist Steve Hackett has had a difficult time with some of his own greatest achievements. This autumn he is a performing a sell-out show at the Ipswich Regent hoping to reconnect with his past and hopefully lay some old ghosts to rest.
In 1970 he, along with Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford, helped to found Genesis, one of the leading progressive rock bands of the 1970s.
Phil Collins was recruited from the band Flaming Youth to replace the short-lived John Mayhew on drums. Collins would later become the lead singer replacing Peter Gabriel when he left Genesis in 1974 to forge a successful solo career.
Steve Hackett followed in late 1977 feeling rather confined by the band following the release, in 1975, of his first solo album Voyage of the Acolyte.
With Gabriel and Hackett gone Genesis underwent a fundamental change in character and transformed itself from a live and album-orientated band to a singles pop act.
Long instrumentals like Dance On A Volcano, Afterglow and Los Endos and 25 minute epics like Supper’s Ready, Cinema Show and Watcher of the Skies were replaced by three minute pop songs like Follow You, Follow Me; Mama and Invisible Touch.
This was not the sort of music that Steve Hackett wanted to play – particularly as he was a guitarist who took his cues from Bach and Segovia as much as from Eric Clapton or Jimi Hendrix.
Hackett basically left his fellow band members to it and went off on a musical journey of his own – releasing 23 well-regarded, critically acclaimed but niche-market solo albums to a band of loyal fans across the world.
During this time, when he released solo recordings on an almost annual basis, he has resisted virtually all requests for a Genesis reunion. The only time he acquiesced was for a charity gig in 1982 to raise money for Peter Gabriel’s WOMAD Festival. He immediately declared that he would never do it again.
In recent years Hackett has tried to close the gap between his solo career and his Genesis past by recording two albums which revisit classic Genesis material and have allowed him to try and to make his peace with a large area of his creative legacy.
The albums were so cathartic that he has decided to take his reworked Genesis albums out on the road and for the first time since 1977, Genesis fans can hear Steve Hackett get to grips with material from Nursery Cryme, Foxtrot, Selling England By The Pound, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Trick of the Tail and Wind and Wuthering.
“I feel happier now acknowledging the past because I am no longer defined by it. I have a highly successful solo career. I have been making my own music for far longer than I was part of Genesis, so I feel that I can now embrace the past and lay a few ghosts to rest.
“In addition to this tour, the old Genesis line-up have got together for a BBC documentary to be shown this autumn but I have to say here and now, before the rumour mill gets started, there is going to be no reformation, no reunion, no new album. It was just nice to get together with everyone, swap a few stories and then go our separate ways and live our lives.”
He said that his solo career has allowed him to explore a wide array of different styles which wouldn’t have been open to him in Genesis but now he is happy to rediscover his contribution to one of the seminal bands of the prog rock era.
“I take the view now that it’s shame to deny the six or seven years that formed the start of my career. I have really enjoyed rediscovering those early Genesis tracks and have been quietly proud of their sophistication and invention.
“People still come up to me and they say: ‘I re-listened to those early albums and they were really good. When we started we were just hoping to get our contracts renewed from year to year, so we were very much trying to please crowds and record companies because our future lay in their hands.
“But, we did it on our terms. Radio resolutely refused to play Genesis at that time and our management wanted us to go on telly instead but if we felt we weren’t going to come across well then we would refuse to do it. We had a great live reputation and we sold albums on the back of that but refusing to play the game did have its drawbacks.”
He said that these days he’s a lot less precious about television appearances because it’s immediately transferred to YouTube and becomes an instant marketing tool.
“It is what it is. You can’t do anything to change it, the world has changed, so embrace it and make it work for you.”
Steve Hackett laughs when I suggest that this year is going to be something like his own version of time travel with the screening of the BBC’s feature-length Genesis documentary and his Genesis tour.
“I think that this tour is going to be the nearest thing that Genesis fans will get to the classic line-up and those all-important early songs. The other thing is that we have got a great light-show that is bang up-to-date but also gives the show that 70s vibe.
“I think that’s something that a lot of bands forget. Music is about entertainment. You’ve got to put on a show. They have got to give the public something to see or why else would they come?”
He said that this will be the last outing for the Genesis material. “I’ve done it now and I’ve got new music to make.”
n Steve Hackett: Genesis Revisited will be at Ipswich Regent on October 21.